PAINT IT GONE
If an asteroid is ever on a collision course with Earth, it’s feasible that the planet could be saved by firing paintballs at it, according to an MIT graduate student whose detailed plan won this year’s prize in a United Nations space council competition, announced in October. White paint powder, landing strategically on the asteroid, would initially bump it a bit, but in addition would facilitate the sun’s photons bouncing off the solid white surface. Over a period of years, the bounce energy would divert the body even farther off course. The already identified asteroid Apophis, which measures 1,500 feet in diameter and is projected to approach Earth in 2029, would require five tons of paintball ammo.
OUR LITIGIOUS SOCIETY
Samuel Cutrufelli, 31, filed a lawsuit in October in Sacramento County, Calif., claiming that Jay Leone, 90, “negligently” shot him. Cutrufelli had burglarized Leone’s home in Greenbrae, unaware that Leone was home. When Leone reached for one of his stashed handguns, Cutrufelli shot him in the jaw and then pulled the trigger point-blank at Leone’s head, but was out of bullets. Leone then shot Cutrufelli several times, which Cutrufelli apparently felt was entirely unnecessary.
In October, a federal appeals court overturned the bribery conviction of a City of Chicago zoning inspector–on the grounds that the bribes he was convicted of taking were too small to be covered by federal law. Dominick Owens, 46, was convicted of taking two bribes of $600 each to issue certificates of occupancy, but the law applies only to bribes of $5,000 or more. (Also in October, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel disbanded the city’s ethics board after a 25-year run in which it never found an alderman in violation–even though, during that time, 20 aldermen were convicted of felonies.)
LEAST COMPETENT CRIMINALS
William Keltner, 52, was arrested in Abilene, Texas, in November, after he underestimated the security at a Wal-mart self-checkout line. He had taken the barcode off of a $1.17 item, placed it on a $228 TV set, and checked himself out, assuming no one would notice.